CW for Rape





On April’s Fool’s Day, 1975, Helter Skelter, aired on CBS as I experienced my first rape at the age of 5. My parents had attended a Manson party at my uncle and aunt’s house and brought me along. My rapist was another guest. Besides what he did to me, what I recall most vividly are the pile of coats on the guest bedroom bed, the small black and white television, and the women with swastikas carved on their foreheads. I’ve written about those women before. Girls really. Now, I’d call them girls.

I told my therapist I’d like to stop. The process exhausts me in the short term. It works though. Like magic, like a switch. That intolerable background noise, that violent tinnitus—it almost vanished. I’m learning about embodiment and presence and weaving it together with thought and memory.

Shortly after I said, enough for now, let’s stop, I began to bleed: blood gushed from my gums around my front teeth and poured into the bathroom basin when I brushed and flossed; sex hurt and I grew afraid of the pain and the bleeding. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacks my reproductive organs, then with too many red blood cells, and then with abnormal kidney function. My labs aren’t quite what they should be, and I don’t know what my body is trying to tell me.

Was I was bleeding from my mouth when my parents found me in that room in 1975?


  1. Meg Tuite

    HOLY SHIT, April!!!
    First of all, WOW that they had a party for ‘Helter Skelter’!! And took their five year old along???? DAMN! This is harrowing and tragic and so heartbreaking because she lives it in her body for the rest of her life! The gums and teeth bleeding freaked me out. At first I thought that was when she was five and then reread it. You’ve got yourself an unforgettable story here. That ending is killer, as well! LOVE! Send it out!

  2. sara lippmann

    A haunting and horrific story of trauma, April. Thank you for sharing. That first paragraph alone contains a novel (parents at a Manson party, with toddler, the negligence) but it also works as its own devastating micro, that just ruins us with “my first rape” and then cuts us down with “I’ve written about those women before. Girls really. Now, I’d call them girls”.

    I don’t know if we need any more. That paragraph by itself speaks volumes.

    I did stop for a second in the 2nd paragraph, wondering how much time had passed. If we were in a present, why now moment —
    in therapy many many years later, and the act of remembering triggers the avalanche of blood, pain, autoimmune disease. It’s incredibly powerful, and of course, you can keep them linked, but they also could work separately. And what I’m calling the second one could be unpacked — because this line “I don’t know what my body is trying to tell me” — is ironic, right? She knows exactly what her body is telling her, which is why she returns to that night.

    Thank you for your bold, brave, startling work this weekend!

  3. Jenn Rossmann

    April this is so powerful and compressed, WOW. I am interested by Sara’s suggestion to let the first paragraph stand alone. It is SO DARN GOOD and I am drawn toward this five year old, wishing to offer her the comfort and safety that her life is not.
    If you keep the jump forward, I might want something as concrete as “at the age of 5” to place me. I do love “my labs aren’t quite what they should be” which is masterfully understated.

  4. Todd Clay Stuart

    April, this is harrowing and heartbreaking. Immediately made me think of The Girls by Emma Cline.The whole idea of a rape going on while families are at a Manson party is just shattering.That first paragraph says everything!

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